I came to Brown hoping to walk onto the cross country and track teams. The only person I knew at Brown was the other walk-on, Hughes Benjamin ‘21. Coach Springfield simply told us, “keep showing up, and see if you can keep up.”

Hughes and I pushed relentlessly through hot late-summer practices to earn spots on the team. Though we’d occasionally get dropped on workouts, we kept showing up and giving everything we could. Little by little, we became more fit and, by October, we were fully-fledged team members racing in Brown uniforms.

I stayed in Providence during my freshman winter to take a class at the Rhode Island School of Design. Because of the short break between cross country and indoor track, all but one of my distance squadmates were home resting. Knowing the two of us were functionally alone, my new track teammates had us over for many dinners that January. From bowling trips to snowball fights, they did absolutely everything they could to make me feel welcome. During that time, I became close with Phil Batler ‘20. Before coming to Brown, I read Phil’s article on outsports.com (link) talking about what it was like to be a gay athlete. I was so relieved to know there was someone like me on the team, but was nervous about coming out of the closet while trying to walk onto the team. Phil’s friendship, advice, and demeanor were instrumental in making me feel comfortable with my own sexuality. He was the first queer person I came out to. Not long after, I came out to Hughes and my other teammates. They were the first straight men I came out to.

In April, during a one-on-one meeting, Coach Springfield was the first authority figure I came out to. I blurted it out and, frankly, don’t know why I did. He immediately offered words and actions of reassurance; he affirmed me, offered to connect me to queer team alumni, and told me he supported me unequivocally. For a long time, Coach Springfield was the only person over age 25 who knew. At the time, his continuous support was a glimpse of reassurance and trust that I didn’t have from any other authority figure in my life. As strange as it seems, the most impactful thing he did was to treat me exactly the same as any other athlete on the track. When life felt so upside-down and unsure, practice was the one time of day when I knew I was accepted and held to the same standards and goals as everyone else.

Even during hectic semesters filled with long classes, my teammates consistently showed up to support me. I pushed through architecture studios with Shari Rauls ‘20, another teammate, and Hughes would come eat late-night dinners with me after everyone else had left the dining halls. Samantha Valentine ‘21 would go for runs at any hour to help make sure I got my miles in. Emma Sloan ‘19 would run and talk about Old Time Appalachian music together. As ridiculous as my sophomore schedule was, my teammates supported me and held me accountable.

As sophomore year progressed, I came out to more peers and found myself feeling less and less weighed down by my sexuality. Around the same time, a group of students and staff came together to form the Student Athlete Gay Alliance (SAGA). At our founding meeting, I noticed something interesting. Nearly every queer man was a Brown Track team member. We addressed a variety of topics, including visibility in sports, athletic masculinity, and increasing acceptance among the school’s athlete population. I remember feeling so happy knowing that we were creating a space for people like ourselves in athletics.

Between my sophomore and junior year, my teammates became even more engaged in asking how they could help following a few incidents with another Brown athlete. In the wake of those frustrating moments, my male and female teammates came together like never before to support me. Paired with the hiring of Coach Connelly ‘14 and restructuring of the program as co-ed, my teammates’ actions cemented my feelings of belonging. I was thrilled to have the opportunity to provide the same sort of advice and support that Phil provided me to a younger teammate during his coming out. Knowing that even one person felt comfortable coming out affirms all of the work we put into creating a welcoming space on our team and in Brown Athletics via SAGA.

To hear the unceremoniously-announced news that our program would be cut was absolutely devastating. To know that, as captains, my fellow walk-on Hughes and David Scherrer ‘21 won’t get the opportunity to steer the team in an even better direction is heartbreaking. To know that we won’t get to push ourselves to the physical and mental limits in the same way is disappointing. To know that we won’t get to provide the same supportive space for some young, queer athlete with a million questions is untenable.

Without Brown Track and Cross Country, I wouldn’t be half the man I am today. All that this program offers, from its intensity, to its leadership, to its camaraderie, to its joy, is not possible without the support structure offered by Division I athletics. It is my genuine hope that the University begins to understand this, and reverses its decision.